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NATCA Marks 20th Anniversary of PATCO Strike - (8/2/2001)

WASHINGTON - The National Air Traffic Controllers Association is pausing this week to remember the 11,345 controllers who President Ronald Reagan fired, 48 hours after the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization went on strike on Aug. 3, 1981.

NATCA, the exclusive representative of 15,000 Federal Aviation Administration controllers since 1987, is marking the 20th anniversary of the strike by noting the many positive developments in its current relationship with the FAA and the aviation community. Controllers are working to help maintain the safest and most sophisticated air traffic control system in the world while modernizing it to respond to current and future traffic demand.

“The PATCO strike was a watershed event in labor history,” NATCA President John Carr said. “From those ashes, we have built a relationship with the FAA based on trust, honor and integrity and we are doing our best within the limitations of collective bargaining in the federal sector to co-manage the National Airspace System.”

Added Carr: “NATCA has achieved success by working very hard to build collaborative relationships with the FAA, Congress, aircraft owners and pilots, commercial pilots, business aviation, airports and many others in the aviation community. We are an acknowledged leader in our field and are working hard to find and propose solutions to the problems currently plaguing the air travel system.”

NATCA is also looking to the future of the profession. A wave of retirements over the next decade could mean as much as a 50 percent turnover of controllers. Carr pointed out if you consider 20 years as a benchmark for controllers looking to retire, the workforce who replaced the fired PATCO controllers is approaching this option, beginning this year.

“The increase in traffic, coupled with added demand for air travel and these retirements could leave us short of controllers if we don’t start hiring and training the next generation now,” Carr said. “NATCA has been discussing this issue regularly with the FAA.”
Carr maintains one option is to continue hiring back fired PATCO controllers. Over 800 have been brought back since President Bill Clinton’s executive order in 1993 lifted the ban on such rehires.

“We support any efforts to bring these people into the current workforce,” Carr stated. “The controllers themselves - in 1981 and now - are the same types of people; independent, proud, enormously gifted individuals. The PATCO rehires are super employees and we welcome them back with open arms.”

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